The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Saffron Buns

Saffron Buns

saffron bun

The first time I saw this recipe in Linda Collister and Anthony Blake's Country Breads of the World I nearly threw the book out the window. The recipe, called "Daniel's Saffron Bread," shows a 6 year old all decked out in an apron happily baking this Saffron Bread.

"A six year old??? Baking with saffron?!? The stuff costs as much, by weight, as gold!!!" I thought.

A month or so ago my mother-in-law returned from a trip to Portugal and brought me a souvenir: saffron. So I decided to try it. I have to admit, they are good.

The recipe in the book includes a bit more butter and skips the initial rise. He also bakes it in a loaf pan, whereas I baked them as little buns. I was happy with the way mine turned out, so I'm posting the recipe my way.

Saffron Buns
Makes 1 dozen buns.

1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
1 1/4 very warm milk
4 cups (500 grams) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
2/3 cup dried fruit

Stir the saffron strands into the hot milk and set aside to infuse for half an hour at the minimum or as long as overnight (in the refrigerator).

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cube the butter and cut it into the flour with a fork or a pastry cutter so that the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Stir in the sugar. If using active dry yeast, heat a half cup of the milk to room temperature, then stir in the yeast and allow to activate for 10 minutes. Otherwise, add the instant yeast directly to the flour mixture and stir in all of the milk.

Knead by hand for 6 to 8 minutes or in a stand mixer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the dried fruit and knead some more until the fruit is distributed throughout the dough.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Shape the rolls by hand and place on a baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with plastic and set aside to rise another 45 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the rolls at 350 for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once halfway through. The buns should be nicely brown.

saffron bun

Serve immediately.


Cooky's picture

It's not terribly hard to grow your own saffron. The bulbs (fall-flowering crocus sativus) are shipped in late summer or early fall (about now in some zones) a couple of weeks before they bloom. You can find plenty of bulb sources online. While the bulbs are not cheap (a little less than buck a bulb, if you're buying small amounts), they do multiply and come back year after year if you treat them right. All you have to do is wait for the flower to bloom, then carefully pluck the long, red stamens, and dry them for a day or two by laying them out on a paper towel.

One big advantage: Saffron tastes better when it's fresher. Plus, the bragging rights are priceless.

P.S. Be sure you have the right crocus. There are other fall-blooming crocus that have six stamens. Those are poisonous. Sativus has three stamens per blossom. 


"I am not a cook. But I am sorta cooky."

Cryambers's picture

I made this recipe using halved dried bing cherries, and it turned out a dozen very nice rolls. The only comment I would have is that it smells/tastes a bit overly yeasty to me. I was wondering how it might turn out using a little bit less yeast. It seems like 2 1/2 tablespoons might be more than is necessary. Has anyone tried this with a smaller quantity of yeast?


ETA: I searched around and discovered what appears to be an error/typo in the original cookbook recipe. The amount of cake yeast they call for translates into about 2 1/4 teaspoons of dry yeast, not 2 1/2 tablespoons. One packet of dry yeast is 7g/.25 oz/2.25 tsp. (They may have intended to call for 2 1/2 teaspoons, but, either way, I don't think they meant tablespoons.) I'm going to try the recipe again using this smaller amount. Other than the yeasty taste, I really like the way this turned out.




judy's picture

I've found the foreign food aisle in my local grocery store to be full of wonderful surprises. The saffron in the usual baking aisle is about $15 and only $2.50 in the foreign food section. There are lots of spices in small bags at 2/$1 that have been fun to try. I had been hesitant to spend a lot of money on spices only to find out I didn't like them so this is a great find for me!

Floydm's picture

Good find.

One of my favorite pastimes is to hit the various ethnic markets in town. Within 5 miles of my house or work I've found Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mexican, Russian, Ukranian, Georgian, Lebanese, and Ethiopian markets. The staples spices and ingredients are are *sooo* much cheaper in those stores than in the normal grocery store. I've also had really cool interactions with the shop owners and customers; they seem to appreciate having a white boy come in humbly, wanting to learn something about their culture and cuisine and trying to teach his kids to learn about other people's cultures, rather than coming in and saying "ew" or poking fun of it.

And don't even get me started on Bahn Mi and Pho. I don't think I could ever live again in a town without a couple of good Vietnamese restaurants... I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Mike's picture

Cultural diversity is fun when explored through the taste buds.  They know nothing of politics, religion or prejudice.  People are proud of their culture and love to share information.  I commend you for taking this approach with your kids.

If you ever travel to Orlando Florida, finding a good Vietnamese restaraunt is a Nguyen - Nguyen (win-win) situation :) There is an area downtown informally called "Little Saigon", with several markets, restaraunts of all types of Asian establishments. 

If you ever come, you can borrow my oven for a slice or two.

Happy new year,


Morigianna's picture

i found 2 types of saffron for sale at . I bought both. The expensive stuff is nice but the much cheaper spanish saffron is used by just using 2-3 times what the recipie calls for. This is not a problem because the bag is HUGE. The color is great also. Now we can cave saffron rice & bread all the time instead of just special occasions.


MangoChutney's picture

Since someone else pulled this thread up, I will comment here.  I looked up the two types of saffron at Dragonmarsh.  The cheaper type, called Mexican Saffron on the website, is according to their own listing Carthamus tinctorius.  The common name is safflower.  Yes, the safflower of oil fame.  According to the Wiki, the dye compound in safflower is used as  Natural Red 26.  It's not the same compound as is found in saffron.  I wonder if the flavors are comparable?


Caro_'s picture

Hi Floydm,

just browsing through the recipes when i saw one of my favourites, saffron, on the list, but was surprised to see how pale your bun in the photo looked. Is that the real colour? Mine are usually a light or deep gold depending on whether I use 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of saffron. I get my saffron from an Iranian supermarket, very cheap, and it supposedly comes from there.

I first saw that recipe in that book, as well, and also immediately adapted it, often using 1 or 2 organic eggs for a really rich colour and taste, when I make Saffron Sunflowers, a specialty festival bread, studded with sultanas, for our hot Aussie Christmas.

Floydm's picture

It has been a while since I made them, but my recollection was that they were fairly pale. Yes, using more saffron or some good eggs from grass-fed chickens would make them much richer looking.

Jacknut's picture

Anyone how this stands up to being frozen and then re-heated several days later?  I'm looking for some bread that I can take on a beach trip.

Floydm's picture

I've never tried it, but I don't see why not.

roiseta's picture

I see some of the posts are 2 years old so I suppose it's a bit latet to respond to them [eg yes I'd like to buy saffron etc]

Saffron threads are more delicate in color than the powdered saffron of which far less is required. The tips have the flavor not so the powder...

Love that this is such a comprehensive bread site.



jeb's picture

A great place to purchase saffron and other high quality spices is at Penzeys Spices at . They have several stores in the midwest, and sell by mail order.

Their prices are reasonable (and great for the quality of the product).

I have no financial interests in Penzeys, but am a satisfied customer.

qahtan's picture


 So I guess these autumn crocus growing in my back garden are poisonous, shame,,,, but they are pretty.

 qahtan, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.

Picture005-2.jpg picture by qahtan

RichmondJim's picture

This recipe calls for letting the saffron stand in hot milk for 30+ minutes. I started making Saffron Rolls with my mother 45 years ago and she always ground the saffron with a mortar and pestle and added a couple tablespoons of brandy. Stir it and add it to the wet ingredients. Never had a problem getting a rich saffron flavor in the rolls with this method!

What are your thoughts on "infusing" the saffron?

Morigianna's picture

I have ground it up and infused with milk or water. I will have to try brandy!

Elliesharmons's picture

Hi everyone!

Growing up in northern NM, we lived seven miles from the city and my mother always knew what to do when we came down with the fever or flu...She quickly boiled saffron and then she sweetened it with honey, never sugar;and we were over it quick. I love saffron rice too...


Ellie in Utah

stephen john's picture
stephen john

As a Cornishman who has enjoyed saffron cake and buns for over 60 years, I agree with the comment about the photo showing buns that are far too pale. Proper Cornish saffron cake is bright yellow and generously filled with sultanas, currants and mixed peel. "Half a teaspoon" sounds far too little to give a decent flavour. In a recipe using a pound and a quarter of flour I would expect to use at least a full gram of saffron. And the saffron needs to be fresh genuine Spanish Valencia saffron for best flavour. If it's stored, make sure it is kept in the dark and ideally it should be used soon after purchase.

Genuine Valencia saffron can be difficult to find in anything other than specialist stores but the Schwartz spices range includes saffron (much more expensive than buying from a specialist but readily available in supermarkets in 0.4 gram jars). Schwartz seems to be the real stuff though you will need at least two of their little jars to have enough to start baking with a pound of strong flour. (But if you view their web site about saffron cake, don't be fooled into thinking that what they show is anything like what we enjoy in the West Country - it's truly weird!)

I can confirm another user's comment re yeast - fresh yeast is given away by our local Tesco bakery on request, whilst Sainsbury's make a modest charge. But most independent bakeries will also sell you fresh yeast on request. 

No shop-bought saffron cake I have found even remotely compares with the real thing. It may be the right colour but the taste is NOT that of proper saffron cake. But I agree that it can be an acquired taste. Many Cornish people are brought up on it from a very early age - saffron cake is more associated with Cornwall than any other county.. 

stephy711's picture

Which one did you use for this recipe?

Cheff Crow's picture
Cheff Crow

Just made these for a 2nd time (i live in cornwall) and they went down great :). ty for the recipie.

Ummsalem's picture

I usually crush the saffaron in a morter with some sugar before adding it to the cold milk. Great yellow color everytime.